MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: It’s Thursday, the 8th of April, 2021.
Thanks for coming along with us for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Megan Basham.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.
First up: hardball politics in baseball.
Major League Baseball is drawing fire over its recent foray into politics in the state of Georgia.
Two years ago, the league awarded the 2021 All-Star game to Cobb County, Georgia, home of the Atlanta Braves.
MANFRED: Good evening, I’m Rob Manfred, the commissioner of baseball. All of us in Major League Baseball are excited for the return of the All-Star game in 2021 in Atlanta.
BASHAM: But last Friday, MLB announced it would relocate this year’s game. It will now take place in Denver. Commissioner Rob Manfred said the move was in protest of a new election law in Georgia.
WORLD’s Kent Covington reports.
KENT COVINGTON, REPORTER: Last month, Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brain Kemp signed new voting rules into law. He said the changes are about making voting more secure and making voters more confident in the integrity of elections.
But Democrats have roundly denounced them as racist. They say the changes are really an effort to discourage people, particularly minorities, from voting.
President Biden told reporters,
BIDEN: This is nothing but punitive – designed to keep people from voting.
James Beverly is the Democratic minority leader in the Georgia House. He characterized the bill this way:
BEVERLY: The most egregious voter suppression bill that we’ve seen this millennium.
Immediately after the governor signed the bill into law, liberal activists began pressuring Major League Baseball and other corporations to speak out against it.
Days later, MLB agreed and announced it would move the All-Star game.
That drew a furious response from Republicans in Georgia, in Washington, and in Texas where Gov. Greg Abbott blasted baseball’s decision. In protest, he cancelled his plans to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Texas Rangers’ home opener in Arlington.
ABBOTT: I could not associate myself with Major League Baseball that had gone out and done something that was absolutely ridiculous. It was taking positions with regard to these voter and election laws in the state of Georgia where clearly Major League Baseball had not read, not studied, and did not know what those laws provided.
Here’s what law in question does:
While Georgia law already required identification to vote in person, the new law requires ID for mail-in voting. But it offers a range of options.
Voters will be asked to provide their driver’s license number or other state-issued identification number with a mail-in ballot. But if they don’t have that, they can write the last four digits of their social security number along with their date of birth. And a voter who has none of those things can enclose something like a utility bill.
Additionally, the law limits, but does not eliminate, ballot drop boxes, which were not used at all in the state prior to the pandemic.
But the law also expands early voting to two Saturdays before a general election, instead of just one, and it leaves two Sundays as an option.
Gov. Kemp last week fired back at Major League Baseball and other corporate critics, including Delta Airlines and CocaCola.
KEMP: Major League Baseball, headquartered in New York, Delta’s flying in New York. I’m sure CocaCola sells a lot of product in New York. When you look at New York’s voting laws, you have to have an excuse to vote absentee by mail in New York. You do not in Georgia.
Critics also accused Manfred and Major League Baseball of acting hypocritically.
Some have noted that just five years ago, the Tampa Bay Rays played a game in communist Cuba against the Cuban national team.
And very recently, MLB expanded its contract with Chinese tech company Tencent. The firm has deep ties to the country’s communist government and was behind a blackout of NBA games in China after the Houston Rockets general manager voiced support for democracy in Hong Kong.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio wrote to Major League Baseball this week saying, since MLB now appears eager to—quote—“demonstrate ‘unwavering support’ for fundamental human rights, will you cease your relationship with the Chinese government, which at this very moment is committing genocide?”
Others have criticized baseball’s move simply because, in their view, it doesn’t punish those who passed the law and only hurts the Braves, Cobb County, and local businesses.
Cobb County Commission Chairwoman Lisa Cupid:
CUPID: As we are coming out of a pandemic, many more people are getting vaccinated, and we looked for many people to descend into Cobb County for the All-Star game, and with that was not only going to be an uptick in our mood but also in our economy.
Some in Cobb County said sure, we happen to be located in Georgia, but if a national law ever passes with which some baseball executives disagree, perhaps all future All-Star games will be held in Canada.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kent Covington in Atlanta.